I would like the visit the Eden Project fifty years from now. By 2051, mature trees and dense vegetation would populate the tropic zone and I think I would still marvel at the greenhouses - two biomes of insulated plastic hexagons - even if they were, by then, common place structures in barren deserts and cold English gardens.
However, the vision of the Eden Project is tremendously inspiring, even if the garden is still in its infancy. Over the past two and a half years, the site, a disused china clay pit in Cornwall, was drained and 1.5 million tonnes of spoil tipped back into the pit to create a level. Topsoil, 85,000 tonnes of it, was generated in a nearby pit from clay spoil and compost donated from around the country.
While the biomes were being built, thousands of plants were collected from around the world: bananas from the International Banana and Plantain Institute in Belgium, two rare double coconuts from the Seychelles and other specimens from British, Italian, German, Spanish, Dutch and South African nurseries. However, the large majority, 80,000 were grown from seed or cuttings by the project team. Then the planting began...
Described as 'Picasso meets the Aztecs' the landscape plan envisages swirls of themed plants spiralling down to the greenhouses. At our visit, timed one month after opening, planting of the temperate zone had yet to begin. Instead we struggled against the rain and the wind, down and down and down, past landscaped mud, until finally into the glorious warmth of the humid tropic biome.
The biomes were fantastic, far to immense to feel like a greenhouse, yet as we climbed through the tropical forest to the roof of the biome, we were always aware of the structure, swallowing the entire jungle. The Mediterranean biome was my favourite, encompassing the flora of Australia, South Africa, American desert and the Mediterranean. Like the tropical zone, works of art complemented the plants and the sun finally shone.
We and visitors around us, would have liked more information about each of the plants. Unfortunately, while a few plants were highlighted, the majority of the 'Oh, isn't that lovely? What is it? type questions were not answered. Perhaps, with the rest of the planting, that will come with time. The Eden Project aims to attract 750,000 people each year. I doubt that will be a problem.
Inside the humid tropical biome